The nepotism case that won't die

Cousin of ousted port commissioner checks in regarding son's lifeguard proceeds

Daniel Malcolm being sworn in as chairman of the Port of San Diego board (flanked by his wife, son, and daughters)
  • Daniel Malcolm being sworn in as chairman of the Port of San Diego board (flanked by his wife, son, and daughters)

There are many family ties in San Diego government, some legal, some not so much.

For instance, the ghost of Wayne Darbeau, ousted as chief executive officer of the port of San Diego after a series of U-T San Diego exposés last year, continues to haunt that powerful district.

Darbeau, not a favorite of Douglas Manchester — then-U-T publisher and would-be developer of the bayside Navy Broadway complex — was discovered by the newspaper to have sought jobs for his son with port tenants.

In short order, port lawyer Thomas Russell retained GOP political consultant and ex-U-T reporter Tony Manolatos at $175 an hour to "provide strategic communications services" to Russell and the district's board, but not Darbeau.

The consultant, who had worked for San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer when he was on the city council, communicated repeatedly with then-U-T reporter Ashly McGlone, records obtained under the California public records act showed.

Darbeau departed under fire on July 25 after receiving a generous severance package.

Randa Coniglio

Randa Coniglio

That fall, port deputy counsel William McMinn wrote to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission seeking advice regarding Randa Coniglio, then the port’s executive vice president for operations.

Coniglio's daughter had gotten a job with Dudek, Inc., an environmental consulting outfit that has had major contracts from the port, and McMinn wondered if that presented any conflicts of interest that might bar Coniglio from dealing with Dudek matters.

No, advised the political practices commission's then-general counsel Zackery P. Morazzini on October 3.

Coniglio had nothing to do with obtaining the position at Dudek for her daughter, said Morazzini.

In addition, "Her daughter is not a dependent and there is no financial relationship between her and the daughter," wrote Morazzini.

"Since Ms. Coniglio has no financial interest in Dudek, Inc., she is not prohibited under the Act or Section 1090 from participating in District decisions that have a financial effect on or involve a contract with Dudek, Inc.”

Earlier this month Coniglio was named Darbeau's successor as port director.

David Malcolm

David Malcolm

Now comes the case of port commissioner Daniel Malcolm, whose cousin David Malcolm was ousted as a port commissioner in a 2003 conflict-of-interest scandal that saw him do 80 days in work-furlough facility.

Following three years of probation, a judge expunged David Malcolm's felony conviction, allowing the defendant to resume voting.

Daniel Malcom currently represents the City of Imperial Beach on the port board. The port reimburses that city for "the pro-rata costs of sheriff, fire, emergency medical, lifeguard, animal control services and certain maintenance activities provided by the City upon the District’s tidelands within the City’s limits," according to a June 2 letter to port attorney McMinn from Fair Political Practices commission general counsel Hyla P. Wagner.

As it happens, Malcolm's son has gotten a job in Imperial Beach as a Lifeguard I, "a paid seasonal position," Wagner's letter says.

Does that present a conflict for the elder Malcolm, currently chairman of the port board?

"The Commissioner’s son is over 18 and is not currently claimed as a dependent by the Commissioner on a tax return, but was claimed as a dependent in 2013," writes Wagner.

"The son currently resides at a separate college residence and does not provide any rent or income to the Commissioner."

Though Malcolm is paying his son's "tuition and normal college costs," the letter continues, "proceeds from the son’s job will not contribute toward any of those payments or costs, as any money the son makes from the job will be his to keep."

Wagner's verdict: "Your facts suggest the Commissioner would not receive any financial benefit from his son’s employment with the City. Based on these facts, we conclude that Commissioner Malcolm has no financial interest in his son’s employment contract for purposes of Section 1090, and is not prohibited from participating in District decisions involving the City."

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